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Archive → September, 2011

Chevette to Corvette No. 57: The 1971-72 Detroit Pistons


  • Actual record: 26-56
  • Pythagorean record: 25-57
  • Points per game: 109.1 (10th of 17)
  • Opponent points per game: 115.9 (16th of 17)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coaches: B. Van Breda Kolff (6-4), T. Dischinger (0-2), E. Lloyd (20-50)


  • Points per game: Bob Lanier (25.7)
  • Rebounds per game: Bob Lanier (14.2)
  • Assists per game: Dave Bing (7.0)
  • Steals per game: N/A
  • Blocks per game: N/A

Top player

Bob Lanier

After a strong rookie season, Lanier took a huge leap forward in his second season in 1971-72, improving his scoring average by 10 points per game and rebounding average by six per game. The Pistons had found a legitimate franchise big man. Lanier was an All-Star for the first time in 71-72 and an anchor on a young Pistons team that included fellow future Hall of Famer Dave Bing and big-time scorer Jimmy Walker. He’ll also forever have the claim to fame of being mentioned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the movie Airplane:

Do you still get a chuckle out of being mentioned in Airplane by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ("Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.")? "I always tried to show it to the kids and let them get a chuckle."

Key transaction

Changed coaches twice during the season

Coming off a 45-37 record in 1970-71 (the team’s first winning season in 15 years) and with young stars Lanier and Bing in the fold, expectations were understandably high for the 71-72 Pistons. As their final record shows, they didn’t come close to matching those expectations and, as is often the case, coaches got the blame. First, coach Butch van Breda Kolff resigned just 10 games into the season. He was briefly replaced by Terry Dischinger, a player on the team, and then replaced by Earl Lloyd for the remainder of the season. Interestingly, Lloyd had long been viewed as head coaching material:

According to Detroit News sportswriter Jerry Green, in 1965 Detroit Pistons General Manager Don Wattrick wanted to hire Lloyd as the team’s head coach. It would have made Lloyd the first African-American head coach in American pro sports. Dave DeBusschere was instead named Pistons player–coach.

Lloyd didn’t have much success as coach, going 20-50 and only lasting seven games into the next season before he was replaced, but he did stay on with the Pistons as a scout following his coaching career.

Trend watch

Perennial All-Stars

Although Bing missed the 1972 game due to injury, Lanier’s ascension as an All-Star gave the Pistons a second mainstay in the game. Both would make the All-Star team each of the next three seasons.

Why this season ranks No. 57

With Lanier’s stardom came a price: the Pistons legend developed a bit of a reputation as a coach killer early in his career, and the fact that he played for eight different coaches in 10 seasons would seem to back that up. With the coaching upheaval, the Pistons’ defense also failed them. The team went from fifth in the league in points allowed to 16th. They also had to deal with an injury to Bing that cost him nearly half the season.

It’s all in the expectations. Detroit sports have had enough losing teams over the years that fans, even if they aren’t old enough to have lived through it, should be able to relate to how disappointing this season must’ve been at the time. Losing is never fun, but if you expect the team to be bad, it’s much easier to deal with. This team had the look of a young, burgeoning contender. Instead, the team didn’t just take a step back, it slid all the way from 45 to 26 wins. I can’t imagine anything more frustrating.


63. 1979-80 Detroit Pistons

62. 1993-94 Detroit Pistons

61. 1963-64 Detroit Pistons

60. 1965-66 Detroit Pistons

59. 2010-11 Detroit Pistons

58. 1980-81 Detroit Pistons

Austin Daye agrees to deal to play in Russia, has a new agent

Jared Dudley broke the news on Twitter (yes, you read that right):

Congrats to @Adaye5 for signing a deal to play in Russia!!! He does have an NBA out I believe.

Daye later confirmed the news on via his Twitter page while letting Dudley know that he spoiled the surprise:

@JaredDudley619 it was supposed to b a surprise when I landed in LA

Daye also confirmed that he does indeed have an out clause if the NBA lockout ends:

I have an out Claude (sic) ppl I’ll b back when the season starts

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News has some details:

The third-year forward signed a deal with a Russian team; Daye, 23, departs this weekend. Only one other Piston, second-round pick Kyle Singler, has signed an overseas deal, with Spanish club Lucentum Alicante.

Daye’s deal is for two months, ending in December, Daye can opt-out in case the NBA’s collective bargaining situation is resolved quickly. Training camp would start the first week of October.

This is great news for Daye. The more game action he gets, the better. Goodwill also noted that Daye has a new agent:

Austin Daye, who left Bill Duffy, signed w/Rob Pelinka &Landmark Sports Agency. Pelinka is a fmr UM guard & is Kobe Bryant’s agent

Will Greg Monroe be better than Pau Gasol and Amar’e Stoudemire in 2015?

I’ve linked to the fun speculative series that Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp are doing at SB Nation, predicting who they think will be the top 99 players in the league in 2015, a couple of times now. I think it’s safe to say Pistons fans will enjoy where Greg Monroe showed up on their countdown:

28. Greg Monroe

Put it this way: if he’d played anywhere other than Detroit last year, there’d be approximately 300 percent more buzz around Greg Monroe and where he’ll go from here. He averaged 13.7 ppg and 10 rebounds after the All-Star break last season, and he’s still 21 years old. As he gets older and stronger, he’s poised to become one of the best passing big men in the league, a better scorer, and one of the most versatile power forwards in the league. — Sharp

PRADA: Monroe going 15 spots higher than Serge Ibaka is pretty questionable.

ZILLER: Monroe would be No. 2 on my list of centers under the age of 22 that I’d want most. (I mean, he’s no DeAndre Jordan, but …) I have a feeling Warriors fans are going to be apoplectic by 2015 about passing on Monroe in 2010.

But, along with the analysis, check out some of the names Monroe finished ahead of: Brook Lopez, Amar’e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Zach Randolph. Granted, some of those guys will be in their 30s by 2015, but the fact that Monroe would even be considered a potential top 30 player in the league by that point speaks volumes about how much his stock rose over the course of his rookie season. Remember, it’s not as if Monroe was a can’t-miss prospect when the Pistons drafted him. Pre-draft, no one considered his ceiling close to those of DeMarcus Cousins, Evan Turner or Derrick Favors, and Monroe was better than all three players as a rookie. Hell, Golden State didn’t even think he was a better prospect than Ekpe Udoh. Then, after a Summer League and preseason where he lacked aggression and looked to be a ways away from contributing, followed by a first six weeks of the season when he shot below 40 percent and got his shot blocked an outrageously high percentage of the time, it wasn’t even clear at the time if he could become a reliable rotation contributor as a rookie based on those early returns. David Thorpe of ESPN.com called him ‘the most disappointing rookie‘ (Insider required) in late November. Then, very quickly, Monroe figured things out, earned regular minutes and, eventually, a starting job that he’d never relinquish. By the end of the season, Thorpe had put him on his All-Rookie First Team ahead of Cousins.

It’s probably not fair to expect Monroe to continue to improve as rapidly as he did over the course of his rookie season, but I agree with Ziller’s analysis above: there are only one or two young big men I’d rather have for the next 10 years than Monroe.

Chevette to Corvette No. 58: The 1980-81 Detroit Pistons


  • Actual record: 21-61
  • Pythagorean record: 24-58
  • Offensive Rating: 98.1 (23rd out of 23)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.3 7th of 23)
  • Arena: Pontiac Silverdome
  • Head coach: Scotty Robertson


  • Points per game: John Long (17.7)
  • Rebounds per game: Phil Hubbard (7.3)
  • Assists per game: Ron Lee (4.4)
  • Steals per game: Ron Lee (2.0)
  • Blocks per game: Terry Tyler (2.2)

Top player

John Long

John Long had solidified himself as a legit scorer in the NBA by his third season in 1980-81. Now, being the leading scorer on a 21-win team isn’t something that will earn a player many accolades but hey, it beats being the third leading scorer on a 16-win team as he was the previous season.

Long, like many Pistons of the past, was miscast as a go-to player for the Pistons, and the team’s record made that obvious. But he carved out a nice career for himself, especially considering he was a second round pick out of a mid-major, the University of Detroit. At the time, Long didn’t have much a long range shot — he only hit 18 percent from three during the season — but he was a fantastic mid-range shooter and at 6-foot-5, a big, strong guard. He scored his points primarily as a catch and shoot player, and his production made another leap the following season when he was paired with a certain all-time great point guard in the backcourt.

And, for those interested in interesting but useless Pistons trivia, John Long is the uncle to two former Pistons of the 1990s, Grant Long and Terry Mills.

Key transaction

Traded a second round pick to Houston for Paul Mokeski

Mokeski was merely a journeyman center, someone who made little impact in his time with the Pistons and certainly not someone who was a vital component on a team that lost 61 games in 1980-81. But his acquisition would prove important in a future move. After the 1981 season, the Pistons packaged Mokeski with Phil Hubbard and draft picks to Cleveland for a player you have perhaps heard of, one who would become pretty important down the road: Bill Laimbeer.

After decades of futility when it came to drafting players, signing free agents and making trades, the Pistons of the 1980s finally started to turn the corner when it came to personnel moves. Mokeski is a perfect example. The team turned a second round pick of minimal value into a serviceable big man in Mokeski into an All-Star caliber big man in Laimbeer. Mokeski/Hubbard for Laimbeer wasn’t the most important move the Pistons would make in the 1980s, but it’s up near the top of the list.

Trend watch

When will the Pistons draft an impact player?

The Pistons were bad in the late 1970s and frequently picking near the top of the draft. Those high picks had yielded very little production. Players like Phil Hubbard, Greg Kelser, Larry Drew and Leon Douglas, to name a few, didn’t make the impact their draft positions suggested they would. In fact, second round picks like John Long and Terry Tyler out-performed some of those first rounders. The Pistons improved from 16 to 21 wins over the course of two seasons, but with the NBA Draft looming, they clearly needed to finally hit on a high draft pick in order to escape the bottom of the league standings.

Why this season ranks No. 58

No team is going to celebrate 21 wins. The results spoke for themselves, and this was an obvious choice as one of the franchise’s weakest seasons. But unlike other dismal seasons, there were significant reasons for hope.

New coach Scotty Robertson (who recently passed away) began having some success instilling a defensive mindset, something that would later define the franchise’s best teams. The Pistons were not good offensively, but ranked seventh in the league in defensive rating and points allowed. They were 19th in defensive rating and 21st in points allowed the previous season.

And the Pistons did begin to compile assets. Players like Kelser, Hubbard, Tyler, Long and Kent Benson weren’t franchise-altering talents, but they were young players with potential, players who could be reliable contributors if surrounded by better talent or who could prove to be valuable trade pieces. None of the names on this roster became key contributors on the Pistons’ title contending teams later in the decade, but the effort they played with despite the lack of overall talent started to lay the groundwork for the looming turnaround in Pistons basketball.


63. 1979-80 Detroit Pistons

62. 1993-94 Detroit Pistons

61. 1963-64 Detroit Pistons

60. 1965-66 Detroit Pistons

59. 2010-11 Detroit Pistons

Tracy McGrady is No. 178 in ESPN #NBARank

For a player who was at one time one of the four or five best players in the league, coming in at No. 178 in the ESPN NBA Rank is probably no prize for Tracy McGrady.

But after the devastating injuries McGrady has sustained in his career and along with the fact that he looked absolutely done in the handful of games he played last season, his ranking basically says that McGrady would be a top six rotation player on any team in the league, quite an accomplishment for someone who seemed like a gimmick signing when the Pistons took a flyer on him in the offseason.

Other Pistons unveiled in the rankings are: Will Bynum (188), Charlie Villanueva (191), Jonas Jerebko (206), Austin Daye (217), Ben Wallace (227), Jason Maxiell (239), Brandon Knight (267), Chris Wilcox (330), Kyle Singler (446), Terrico White (472) and Vernon Macklin (498).

If you’re on Twitter, feel free to follow along. The @NBAonESPN account is unveiling the names and picking the best comments that use the #NBARank hashtag for retweets and also featuring some on ESPN.com.

Chevette to Corvette No. 59: 2010-11 Detroit Pistons


  • Actual record: 30-52
  • Pythagorean record: 31-51
  • Offensive rating: 107.7 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 111.7 (28th of 30)
  • Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills
  • Head coach: John Kuester


Top player

Greg Monroe

On a team that had veteran players who had played key roles on a championship team (Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace) as well as a former perennial All-Star (Tracy McGrady), it’s a bit strange to say that the team’s most mature player was a rookie who didn’t even turn 21 until after the season ended.

Calling Monroe, the team’s first lottery pick since 2003, a bright spot, does him a disservice. At times, he was the only thing about this team that was watchable. He’s possibly the only player who was on the active roster who would’ve fit in and contributed on the hard-nosed, intelligent, tough championship teams in 1989, 1990 and 2004. Monroe’s final season stats aren’t eye-popping, which is part of the reason he didn’t get the league-wide attention he deserved. But he continuously improved as the season progressed and after the All-Star break, he was arguable the best non-Blake Griffin rookie in the league. Dan Feldman already laid out the many on-court accomplishments of Monroe:

If I wanted to discuss Monroe’s worthiness, I could tell you no rookie since Chris Webber in 1994 scored more points per game on a higher shooting percentage.

I could tell you, as originally noted by Mike Payne of Detroit Bad Boys, no starting-level rookie big man has ever posted such a low turnover percentage.

I could tell you no starter-level rookie since Reggie Evans in 2003 has grabbed a higher percentage of available offensive rebounds.

But, the very reason Monroe was snubbed by voters — the subtle, selfless and quietly efficient way he plays — is exactly why he would’ve fit in so seamlessly with those great Pistons teams of the past. Here was what I wrote after Monroe was jobbed in the Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie Team voting:

The thing that hurts Monroe when it comes to awards voting is the same thing that made him such a solid player for Detroit this season: subtlety. Watching the Pistons, it was pretty common, especially in the second half of the season, to glance at the box score in the third quarter or so and say, “Wow … Monroe has 12 points and 10 rebounds already?” He’s not particularly explosive or athletic. He scored points by taking good shots, by crashing the offensive glass and by using craftiness around the basket to make up for his lack of athleticism. He’s a throwback player to the earlier 2000s Detroit teams — selfless, hard-working, smart and largely anonymous outside of Detroit. Monroe’s advanced stats clearly make him one of the five best rookies in the league this year. Monroe was also hurt by the fact that the Pistons were not just bad this season, they were unwatchable, perhaps the most boring and predictable team in the NBA to watch on a night-to-night basis. That doesn’t change the fact that Monroe was absolutely Detroit’s best player this season when you factor in production, attitude and upside.

Those are all great reasons to be hopeful for Monroe’s future as a player. But his rookie year also showed that he has great promise as a leader. Veteran players this year were benched for not listening to the coach in-game, they verbally castrated the coach in front of the team, they openly mocked his shortcomings to the media and a few even skipped a shootaround as a sign of protest. In that backdrop of major turmoil, there was Monroe, quietly taking that same embattled coach’s advice to focus on rebounding and defense if he wanted to earn minutes and doing just that after having an up and down preseason that resulted in two straight DNP-CDs to start his career. More importantly, the negativity and competing agendas in the locker room didn’t seem to phase Monroe, even as a young, impressionable player. Here’s what he told Matt Watson after the season:

When asked whether it was difficult to play through all of last year’s drama, Monroe essentially confirmed the need for more focused teammates.

“Nah, because [the problems] never had anything to do with me, they had to do with my teammates. I don’t want to sound selfish, but I just tried to focus on what I had to do to help the team win,” he said.

The Pistons don’t have the roster or salary flexibility for a quick turnaround, but they have at least one young player who embodies the principles that made the franchise great, and that’s no small thing considering the season they just had.

Key transaction

Drafted Greg Monroe

Yeah, Monroe was the best player and easily the key transaction. But I’ve covered his merits above. So we’ll do the runner-up key transaction here.

Signed Tracy McGrady to veteran’s minimum deal for one year

McGrady doesn’t figure to be a part of Detroit’s long-term plans and with the team only winning 30 games, it’s not like he was a difference maker. But, because the pending sale of the team made adding salary via the mid-level exception out of the question, taking a flyer on a once-great veteran like McGrady was about the only type of move Joe Dumars could make in the offseason.

But, from the standpoint of being a fan of McGrady finding a way to extend his career, he had a fantastic season. He showed unselfishness that is sometimes rare in alpha-dog superstars who have always been relied on to score a lot of points. He showed versatility, playing both wing spots and proving to be the Pistons’ best halfcourt playmaker at the point guard position. He even improved defensively, as noted by Mike Payne early on in the season:

Warning– stat nerdery.  If you have access to Synergy, take a look at McGrady’s defensive stats.  On 49 defensive possessions so far this season, Tracy is holding his man to 29.7% shooting.  That makes him the 13th best defender in the league so far this season– regardless of position.

McGrady’s defense held up, too. For the season, opposing players shot 36 percent with McGrady defending them. He also developed fantastic chemistry with Monroe, which made them really fun to watch when they were on the court together. McGrady’s play was a surprise, and if it were not for his involvement in the Philly shootaround incident, I daresay he could’ve even been called a full-on bright spot this season.

Trend watch

Will Pistons match 1990s mark of three straight seasons without a playoff appearance?

When Chuck Daly took over the Pistons in 1983, the team began a run of nine straight playoff appearances. Then Daly left, the roster aged really quickly, Jordan’s Bulls ascended and the team made questionable moves (particularly trading Dennis Rodman for Sean Elliott) that compounded the problems. The team hit bottom and went three straight seasons without making the playoffs.

It’s hard not to see the parallels between that version of the Pistons and this one. And maybe Joe Dumars’ involvement as a player in the first doomed him to repeat some mistakes of the past. But after eight straight playoff appearances, a clumsy rebuilding on the fly attempt and two straight playoffs-less season, the Pistons could tie that 1990s streak unless young players on the roster quickly and significantly improve or the Pistons somehow pull off a heist in a trade.

Why this season ranks No. 59

Covering the entire season for PistonPowered, I’m sure no one is interested in more debate on whose to blame in the failed coach-players relationship, whether or not Dumars should be fired for allowing the roster to become the mess that it is and just how much the sale of the team actually impacted the on-court performance this season. I daresay those topics have been beaten into the ground.

Instead, this season ranks No. 59 because it was depressing watching key members of a championship team be a part of the mess. Prince and Hamilton, in particular, seemed to be the unhappiest Pistons this season. Both let those frustrations boil over publicly. Both were absolutely ill-equipped to deal with being on a young team not talented enough to be considered close to a contender. It was sad watching that because both guys have meant so much to the organization, because both provided signature moments during the fantastic run the team had from 2003-2008.

It has been suggested that the Pistons would’ve been better off trading Prince and/or Hamilton well before this season, when their values were much higher and while the team was still a playoff contender. And after how things played out, it’s hard to argue the opposite. But I think I found an answer to the question of why, even after losing the team’s two best players, Billups and Ben Wallace, deals involving Prince and Hamilton never happened over the years when reading Halberstam’s Breaks of the Game. Halberstam talks about the Portland Trail Blazers holding on to key players that won a title as compliments to Bill Walton even after Walton had gone:

“He (Portland GM Stu Inman) was in the process now of creating a team without Walton. The Walton team was dead. Its demise was hard to accept because it had been so brilliant. It had been the kind of team professional basketball men spent their entire lives dreaming about, wanting only to have a small share of it. Yet it had actually come together in Portland, in no small part because of his (Inman’s) handiwork; he had seen the different pieces before they were even pieces, and it was difficult to realize that a team as fine and young as that could be gone just as quickly as it had come together. Many of the people connected to it, including the fans, were still living in the past, waiting for the magic to strike again. (Coach Jack) Ramsay was a little that way. He still looked at (Maurice) Lucas and (Lionell) Hollins and (Bobby) Gross and thought of the past and the good days. Sometimes, a few of his players thought he coached as if Walton were still there. Some of the younger players wondered why he had not come down harder on Lucas and why he seemed so tolerant of Hollins. Some of them thought he was physically afraid of Luke. The truth was different. Ramsay was tolerant of Lucas and Hollins because they had been part of that championship team, and part of that moment. He was not alone; some of the players themselves, Lucas, Hollins and Gross especially, were still in a way rooted in the past, waiting for things to happen that would never happen again.”

This Pistons team doesn’t exactly mirror that Portland team, but that description of Portland’s downfall is as close to a perfect description of what has happened to the Pistons over the last few years as anything I’ve ever read.


63. 1979-80 Detroit Pistons

62. 1993-94 Detroit Pistons

61. 1963-64 Detroit Pistons

60. 1965-66 Detroit Pistons

Rodney Stuckey shows progress scoring and passing in pick-and-rolls

Sebastian Pruiti’s “Taking the Next Step” series for Basketball Prospectus turned to Rodney Stuckey today, and Pruiti was very impressed with Stuckey’s improvement running pick-and-rolls:

Playing with his head up and demonstrating a willingness to share, Stuckey was not only able to hit the roll man when open, but he was also able to survey the court and hit cutters and spot-up shooters outside of the pick-and-roll. This is a huge reason why his assist rate jumped from 24.27 to 34.10 percent.

Two seasons ago, Stuckey was looking for his own offense 61 percent of the time in the pick-and-roll. Last year, that number dropped to 51.1 percent.

Great stuff, and if you’re a Basketball Prospectus subscriber, you should check out the rest of the post, including the accompanying videos.

Greg Monroe to play in star-powered ‘Clash of Superstars’

Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner:

The latest spectacle is set for Saturday at Coolidge High in the District, where some 10 or more NBA players are expected to take part in what is being billed as Clash of Superstars.

The list: Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Jeff Green, Kemba Walker, Jarrett Jack, James Harden, Corey Brewer, Greg Monroe, Eric Maynor, and John Wall.

Tickets are available at the door on Saturday at Coolidge (6315 5th St NW), $30 general admission, $20 youth, with balcony seats at $50. Doors open at 2, game at 3.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this game will be streamed online anywhere, but it should be a good show if you’re in the D.C. area.

Chevette to Corvette No. 60: The 1965-66 Detroit Pistons


  • Actual record: 22-58
  • Pythagorean record: 24-58
  • Points Per Game: 110.3 (9th of 9)
  • Opponents Points Per Game: 117.2 (6th of 9)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coach: Dave DeBusschere


  • Points per game: Eddie Miles (19.6)
  • Rebounds per game: Dave DeBusschere (11.6)
  • Assists per game: Ray Scott (3.0)
  • Steals per game: N/A
  • Blocks per game: N/A

Top player

Eddie Miles

A young scorer who so admired NBA all-time great Elgin Baylor that he went all the way from Little Rock, Arkansas, to play college basketball at Baylor’s alma mater, the University of Seattle, Miles had a career year for the Pistons in 1965-66. That was no easy task, considering the Pistons were easily the NBA’s worst team at 22-58, a full eight games behind the next team up in the standings, New York.

Miles was selected by the Pistons picked fourth overall in the 1963 draft. According to the University of Seattle in 2009, Miles is the third best player in school history, behind Baylor and Johnny O’Brien:

Led three SU teams to NCAA post-season play. Attended Jones High in Little Rock, Arkansas where he was a two-time high school All-American. Third-leading scorer in school history with 1,874 points and 23.1 ppg in three years. A good rebounder, he nabbed 476 off the boards, averaging just under six per game. Known as “the Man With the Golden Arm,” his jump shot was one of the country’s best bets in the early 1960s.

Talk about an era when nicknames were epic — try living up to being dubbed ‘The Man With the Golden Arm.’ Miles steadily improved each of his first two seasons in Detroit (jumping from 5 to 13 points per game) before attaining All-Star status in that third season when his minutes increased to nearly 35 per game. His nickname, obviously, meant that his strength was shooting jumpers, but the key to Miles’ 1966 season was an increased ability to get to the line. He attempted 5.0 free throws per game, a career high and more than two per game more than he’d previously attempted in his career.

Miles was hurt during his NBA career by the fact that he never played with a 3-point line, something that would’ve assuredly boosted the scoring average of such a prolific shooter. Miles, who now lives in Seattle, told the Seattle Post-Inteligencer in 2005 that his golden shooting arm was still intact:

“If I had some legs, I could still play,” he said with a laugh. “If they had a position of standing guard, I could still play.”

Key transaction

Drafted Tom Van Arsdale in the second round

And you thought Pistons draft picks having their greatest successes elsewhere was a recent phenomenon. The Pistons drafted Van Arsdale, a 6-foot-5 wing player out of Indiana, with the third pick of the second round in 1965. Van Arsdale was solid as a rookie in Detroit, averaging 10.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists. His numbers hovered right around those rookie marks for another season and a half in Detroit before the Pistons traded Van Arsdale to Cincinnati with journeyman forward John Tresvant for Jim Fox and Happy Hairston. Van Arsdale blossomed with the Royals, becoming a three-time All-Star, while Fox averaged fewer than five points per game in 49 career games with the Pistons and Hairston had one solid season before he was shipped to the Lakers.

Trend watch

Will Pistons cut another coach loose?

After completing the 65-66 season, the Pistons had had just five seasons above .500 in 18 years. Charles Eckman, who took the Fort Wayne to back-to-back Finals appearances, was, to that point, the only coach in Pistons franchise history who got to start a fourth season with the team, and even Eckman didn’t make it through his fourth season.

The Pistons were coached in 1965-66 by DeBusschere, who was also a key player on the team. After tying the record for the worst season in franchise history, it was a good bet that a coaching change was considered, but DeBusschere’s clout as a high school and college star in Detroit, as well as the fact that he was a really good NBA player at the time, may have saved his coaching job, for better or worse. Although DeBusschere would make it through the season, it was clear the Pistons were still searching for the right person to help turn around a floundering franchise.

Why this season ranks No. 60

The Pistons were in the midst of a 10-year stretch that was their worst in franchise history (they made the playoffs only once in those 10 years), and this was the worst season of that period and tied for the worst in franchise history at the time.

Compounding matters, although it appeared they had a young star blossoming in Miles to compliment a fellow All-Star in DeBusschere and a promising rookie in Van Arsdale, the Pistons were no closer to escaping the basement. DeBusschere, who was also trying to play professional baseball during the early part of his career with the Pistons, came into his own as a player when he was freed from the coaching responsibilities that were taking away from his on-court abilities, as he admitted in Pete Axthelm’s book, The City Game:

Freed from coaching and with baseball far behind him, DeBusschere found himself focusing on one job for the first time as a professional. He kept improving, but the Pistons didn’t. And he began to hear the rumors that he would be traded.

DeBusschere also says in the book that the experience coaching helped turn him into an even better player because he began to understand all spots on the floor. Of course, these revelations came when he was becoming the missing piece on a Knicks championship team rather than as a member of the Pistons.

Van Arsdale had his best years after Detroit traded him, as pointed out above, and as for Miles, well, he wasn’t blossoming into a perennial star, he was actually peaking in 1966. Miles never again touched the 19.6 points per game he averaged in 1966 and he averaged more than 13 points per game only two more times in his career, which was cut short by an Achilles tendon injury that forced him to retire in 1972 at just 31-years-old.

Virtually all bad teams take solace in the fact that young, exciting players of the future received valuable development and took their lumps in lost seasons. Time, however, would prove that the ’66 Pistons were still many pieces away from being competitive.


63. 1979-80 Detroit Pistons

62. 1993-94 Detroit Pistons

61. 1963-64 Detroit Pistons

Pistons hire Charles Klask, the Magic’s “statistical guru”

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel (hat tip: Mike Payne of Detroit Bad Boys):

The Orlando Magic are about to lose a key member of their basketball operations staff.

Charles Klask, the Magic’s scouting information manager, has accepted a job with the Detroit Pistons.

“Charles was our statistics guru,” Magic General Manager Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday.

“He really delved into the numbers for us and broke down the numbers for us — a lot of breaking down the teams from a statistical regard, helping Stan formulate his game plans from a statistical perspective. He was huge to our staff.”

This sounds like great news. The Pistons have appeared woefully behind when it comes to using statistics to inform their decisions.

But before we get carried away with excitement, I have to throw some water on the fire. Check out this February 2010 article by Robbins about the Magic using statistics. It’s all about how Stan Van Gundy used Klask to help Orlando on the court. Magic general manager Otis Smith’s name didn’t appear once. Who do you think is more likely to take advantage of Klask’s work, Lawrence Frank or Joe Dumars? I thought so.

Also from the Robbins article:

When the Magic hired Van Gundy in 2007, he made clear he wanted one person in the basketball operations department to coordinate all of the team’s scouting and video efforts, compile game plans and also study data and cull useful statistics.

Charles Klask, the team’s scouting information manager, occupies that role for the Magic.

Klask is a Michigan native, and he obviously had a variety of responsibilities in Orlando. Who says his focus will be statistical analysis in Detroit? Maybe he just wanted to come home.

I’ll end on a positive note. Here a couple excerpts from Dennis Mannion’s Q&A with Keith Langlois:

Having a passion for the sport was first and having a track record of using data to make decisions – that’s where the world has gone – so it’s a combination of finding someone with his passion and data. And Tom (Gores) clearly found that. It was easy to research his style of business because of the number of businesses that they’ve purchased.

If there are analytic tools that we’re using on the business side that might be valuable tools for the team side to use, we’ll do that.